Tuesday, February 4, 2014

What is right vs. What is good

Many times in our lives I feel that find ourselves forced to make difficult decisions.  Sometimes these decisions are easier to decide than others. 

I read this question posed in an article about ethics that I was reading and it really made me think, I now pose this question to you.

Suppose you are living in Holland during World War II and Germany has invaded your country.  When this happens a Jewish family comes to you and asks for your help, so you allow them to hide in your house.  The Nazis come looking for them and ask if you are harboring any fugitives.  You now have two ethical principles in conflict.  Shall you protect the Jewish family or tell the truth?

Do you do what is good or what is right?

Before we go on I think I should clarify what I mean when I say “good” and “right”. 

Good refers to the ethical decision made dealing with benefits.  What is good for the decision maker of for the good of someone else.  These decisions are made looking ahead and asking what the hoped for are anticipated benefits are of the decision. 

The right is also known as the rules-based approach.  Doing what one’s duty is based on the moral code. 

Now sometimes we may find ourselves faced with a  problem that brings this very principal to light. 

What do we do, what is right or what is good?

To be honest, I can not simply answer that question.  I do not think it is a concrete solid answer every single time. 

Because I am curious as to what the Bible has to say about this, naturally I open straight to Romans 13.  I am sure we all know exactly what I am referring too.

If you want a refresher on Romans 13, here is a summary of it from the one and only, shmoop.com…

  • Paul's spree of advice continues.
  • Everyone should obey people in positions of authority. After all, all authority comes from God, so all the authority figures running around out there must have been hand-picked by God. Makes sense… sort of.
  • That means if you go against someone in a position of authority, then you're really going against God. Remember that next time you throw paper airplanes at your Spanish teacher.
  • Basically, Paul says, if you just keep walking the straight and narrow and don't step out of line you should be fine. If you do, don't forget, those authority figures have swords and they're not afraid to wield them.
  • (Ironic historical footnote: about 10 years after writing this, Paul was executed by the Roman authorities. Wonder if that might make him revise his thoughts in this section just a little?)
  • Same thing goes for paying taxes. Sorry, Tea Party and Henry David Thoreau—you've got to pay them. If you owe money to the government, fork it over. And if you owe respect and honor to people in positions of power, then start practicing your groveling now. Yup.
  • Don't walk around owing anyone anything. Period. Oh, except love. You should owe everyone love all the time. And pay it as often as possible. That's the essence of all of Jewish law anyway—love.
  • Paul thinks the Ten Commandments can pretty much be boiled down to "Love your neighbor as yourself." It's really pretty simple, guys.
  • Besides, Paul tells the Romans, they know what time it is. 
  • No…
  • The hour is at hand. Salvation is coming soon to a theater near you. Any minute now, Jesus is gonna come down from Heaven again and make some non-believers feel pretty darn foolish. Yup. He's talking about the second coming, folks.
  • So let's all just be good little boys and girls so we can always be prepared for this. Basically just keep focused on Christ and do what's good all the time. Easy, right?

It is definitely not the easiest chapter to follow.  In the chapter though, Paul says that it is an obligation to love others.  Who should we love?  Well, Christians naturally but who else does Paul say that we should love?  The neighbor and the enemy. 


But, what happens when our moral obligation to follow the rules and our call to love others conflict in our decision making?

While things may not always turn out the way you want and feel that you do not have any control over the matter at hand, sometimes you just get stuck in the dilemma.

One piece of advice that I was told when thinking over these types of problems…

Follow your heart.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;

-Proverbs 3:5

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